SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — Closing arguments for the Elizabeth Holmes trial begin Thursday, giving both sides one last shot at swaying the jury their way.
Holmes is charged with 11 criminal counts of fraud and conspiracy. If found guilty, the 37-year-old woman could be sent away to prison for the next 20 years.
To walk out of a San Jose federal courthouse as a free woman, Holmes needs just one juror to believe she is innocent.
For three months, the jury listened to the tale of what went wrong at Theranos, Holmes’ Silicon Valley startup company.
Holmes testified in her own defense. She cast the blame on everyone around her at Theranos, most of all, her ex-boyfriend and COO, Sunny Balwani. She painted herself as a victim who was controlled, abused, and manipulated by Balwani.
Theranos imploded in 2016 after investigators found that its mini blood testing machines were giving patients false test results. Holmes, once the darling of Silicon Valley and youngest self-made billionaire in America, was indicted by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.
The rise and fall of Theranos is one of the biggest scandals in Silicon Valley history.
The defense wants the jury to believe that Holmes was a young, naïve CEO who dreamed of saving patients lives by revolutionizing blood testing.
Prosecutors told the jury that Holmes desired money and fame. She became the golden girl of Silicon Valley by weaving a tangled web of lies, prosecutors said.
Holmes was her own star witness, testifying on the stand for seven days.
In the trial’s most dramatic moment, Holmes broke down in tears as she told the jury that she was controlled and abused by Balwani during their 11-year relationship.
By claiming she was being controlled behind the scenes by an abusive boyfriend, Holmes may have strengthen her case in the minds of the jury, according to legal analyst and former prosecutor Michele Hagan.
Holmes testified that she was raped while she was a student at Stanford University. When she met Balwani, she saw him as someone who could protect and guide her. Balwani, who is 20 years older than Holmes, dictated every minute of her day, Holmes testified.
Prosecutor Robert Leach reminded the jury that Holmes was CEO of Theranos, not Balwani.
“He was the COO and you were the CEO. You could fire him at any time?” Leach asked.
“I could,” Holmes said.
Holmes testified that after she pushed Balwani out of her company in 2016, he would show up at her church and on the running trails he knew she liked.
Holmes was one of only three witnesses called by the defense to testify. The defense’s other two witnesses were not relevant to the fraud charges, and essentially inconsequential, Hagan said.
Prosecutors called on 29 witnesses.
Witnesses who testified against Holmes included former U.S. Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis, whistleblower Erika Cheung, ex-Theranos lab director Adam Rosendorff, Fortune magazine reporter Roger Parloff, former Safeway CEO Steven Burd, patient Brittany Gould, and DeVos family investor Lisa Peterson.
The trial has essentially become Holmes’ word vs. the prosecution’s 29 witnesses, Hagan said.
Hagan said the defense team likely didn’t have many options for witnesses willing to defend Holmes.
“It speaks volumes. Because who is going to come in a say that she didn’t know that the technology was not working? We already heard a ton of witnesses who said she did know. Who is going to come in a stand up for Elizabeth Holmes?” Hagan said.
“They are betting the case on her. And just like she took a bet on herself leaving from Stanford, she’s taking another gamble herself by making this case Elizabeth Holmes versus everybody else,” Hagan said.
“Twenty-nine to one, those are incredible odds. 29 government witnesses versus Elizabeth Holmes,” Hagan said.
“She testified about her version of reality,” Hagan said.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors attempted to expose exact moments when Holmes knowingly lied to investors, business partners, and doctors about her new technology, as well as Theranos’ projected future financial success.
Holmes claimed Theranos’ micro technology could run a wide array of blood tests from just a finger-prick of blood. Sophisticated investors pumped millions of dollars into Holmes’ company. At the same time that Holmes giving glowing descriptions to investors about Theranos’ technology and rosy financial outlook, Theranos lab employees were working around-the-clock trying to get the machines to work.
Prosecutors illuminated dozens of private text messages exchanged between Holmes and Balwani to pinpoint what the duo knew, and when they knew it.
“Normandy lab is a f***ing disaster zone,” Theranos COO Sunny Balwani texted Holmes in November of 2014.
During cross-examination, Holmes answers turned evasive on the stand. When prosecutor Robert Leach asked Holmes questions with potentially damaging answers, Holmes often replied by saying, “I don’t think so,” “I don’t think I did,” and “I don’t remember.”
Her memory was sharper when answering questions from defense attorney Kevin Downey.
“Is it an accurate statement that between 2010 and 2016, were you aware of everything that happened at Theranos?” Downey asked.
“No,” Holmes answered.
“Between 2010 and 2016, were you involved in all of the decisions that the company made?” Downey asked.
“I was not,” Holmes said.
“Did you ever at any time takes steps to try to mislead people who invested in Theranos?” Downey asked.
“Never,” Holmes said.
“They lost money … was that the result of your attempting to mislead them in connection with asking them to invest in Theranos?”
“Of course not,” Holmes answered.
Through his attorney, Balwani refused to testify at Holmes’ trial to avoid self-incrimination. He is charged with the same counts of fraud and conspiracy as Holmes, and he will be put on trial separately next year.
Key witnesses who testified against Holmes:
Former US Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis
Mattis testified that Holmes impressed him because she was “sharp,” “articulate,” and “committed.” He joined Theranos’ board of director and invested in the company.
Once a strong believer in Theranos’ mission, Mattis testified that he eventually realized the Holmes had misled him with empty promises.
Whistleblower and former Theranos lab tech Erika Cheung
Theranos blood testing machines failed so frequently that employees in the lab worked around-the-clock recalibrating, Cheung testified.
Cheung testified that she was afraid of the company’s executives. After she quit, Cheung received an email from the company’s legal team threatening her with a defamation lawsuit.
Ex-Theranos lab director Adam Rosendorff
As Theranos’ top lab director, Rosendorff was legally responsible for making sure blood tests were accurate. The defense poked holes in Rosendorff’s credibility and ethical integrity, Hagan said.
When Rosendorff quit Theranos, he leaked information to the Wall Street Journal. John Carreyrou, a former WSJ reporter and and author of “Bad Blood,” revealed that Rosendorff was his “Deep Throat” for an investigative series into Theranos.
Ex-Safeway CEO Steven Burd and ex-Walgreens CFO Wade Miquelon
Two businessmen who helped make multi-million dollar deals with Theranos, former Safeway CEO Steve Burd and former Walgreens CFO Wade Miquelon, both had close personal relationships with Holmes.
Walgreens and Safeway were aiming for the same goal in 2010 – they wanted to put Theranos blood testing machines in all of their store pharmacies.
Miquelon wrote an email in 2010 to his fellow Walgreens executives saying, “We will be the gateway into primary care and the gateway out. Then we really will be the most important player in US healthcare.”
Patient Brittany Gould
Gould was told she had a miscarriage in 2014 because a Theranos blood test wrongly indicated her HCG levels were falling dramatically. Gould later gave birth to a healthy girl.
Prosecutors showed the jury a letter from Christian Holmes, Elizabeth Holmes’ brother and a Theranos employee, who wrote an apology to Gould’s doctor, saying “these errors are extremely rare.”
Fortune magazine reporter Roger Parloff
Parloff wrote a flattering Fortune magazine cover story profiling Holmes. The story vaulted her into stardom. He testified that he was awed by Holmes and her “remarkable company.” The article contained inaccurate information about what Theranos technology was capable of performing.
DeVos family investor Lisa Peterson
Ex-Theranos finance manager So Han Spivey
Spivey testified that Theranos hemorrhaged money. Theranos had net losses of $11 million in 2009, $16 million in 2010, and $27 million in 2011. The company went for years without having its financial statements audited, Spivey testified.
Spivey’s testimony helped to establish a motive for why Holmes would need to defraud investors. Her company was running out of money.